NASCAR's Mark Martin
2003 Season Articles - February

Roush Used To Las Vegas Success
Martin among stable of drivers who love LVMS
By Brian Hilderbrand
Las Vegas Sun
February 26, 2003

It is difficult to bet against one of Jack Roush's cars when it comes to picking a favorite for Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400.

The venerable NASCAR Winston Cup team owner turned Las Vegas Motor Speedway into his personal playground the first three years the series visited here, winning with Mark Martin in 1998 and Jeff Burton in 1999 and 2000.

Although Roush has been shut out of the Winston Cup victory circle at LVMS the past two years, his cars have managed three top-10 finishes in the past two races.

Burton is the only two-time winner of the Las Vegas Winston Cup race and Martin is the only driver to have completed every lap of every race and finish in the top 10 in each of the first five races.

So, Burton and Martin must be the guys to beat on Sunday, right?

"Don't forget Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth," Martin said, referring to his Roush Racing teammates.

Ben Leslie, Martin's crew chief, said his driver's success at LVMS can be attributed to two factors. First, Leslie considers Martin the best driver in the series. Second, he pointed to Martin's affection for the 1.5-mile track.

"I think we've learned that we've had drivers who really like Las Vegas and the first key to getting around Las Vegas is to have a driver that loves the place and knows how to get around it," Leslie said.

"(Las Vegas) is one of Mark's favorite tracks so that right there gets you one step closer as far as being a little more dialed in (than other teams)."

Martin comes to Las Vegas with top-10 finishes in the season's first two races and a trunkload of confidence in the team that helped him to a runner-up finish to Tony Stewart for last year's championship.

"I really like that track a lot -- I love it," Martin said of LVMS. "I really love the car that we're taking there. I've got a great, great crew and we're off to a good start so I think we're going to have an interesting weekend.

"Ben and the whole team did such a great job at Daytona and then Rockingham, as well. I really have a good team. I'm so thankful for the way things are going for us. Our sponsor, our whole package ... as long as I've raced in my career, the package is the best it has ever been."

At 44, Martin has finished second in the championship four times but still is in search of his first Winston Cup title. But just because he may be nearing the end of his driving career doesn't mean he is feeling a sudden sense of urgency to win a championship. Martin said he doesn't need a Winston Cup championship to validate his career.

"I have a hard time understanding how finishing second in the Winston Cup championship is a bad thing," said Martin, who has 33 Winston Cup victories. "I don't quite comprehend where people are coming from when they (say that). I guess they don't mean that, but I think it's a good thing. I have a great career -- lots of wins -- and that's what has made my career.

"I will either win every championship that I run for from now on or I won't win any or I'll win some in between -- I don't know -- but the effort will be the same. I wasn't disappointed with 2002. As a matter of fact, I was incredibly proud of 2002 and I take a lot of pride in what we managed to do in 2002. I hope I can be as proud or prouder of 2003."

Leslie understands Martin's position, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't relish being the first crew chief to help guide Martin to a Winston Cup championship.

"I know from talking to him that he feels like he has no reservations about anything that has happened in his career or any championships that he might have won or might not have won, or lost, because he has had such a great career," Leslie said. "I want to be able to put him in a position where he could win his championship."

2003 Mark Martin Track Notes
Viagraģ (sildenafil citrate) Roush Racing #6 Ford Taurus
UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400/Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Roush Racing / February 26, 2003

DRIVER: Mark Martin
CAR OWNER: Jack Roush
EVENT: UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400
TRACK: Las Vegas Motor Speedway/Las Vegas, NV
TRACK SPECS: 1.5-miles/ 267 laps

2002 WINNER: Sterling Marlin

2002 EVENT: Started: 6th Finished: 3rd

The No. 6 car was not extremely fast off the truck, but the team worked with the car all weekend attempting to solve problems with the car's handling. The car recorded the sixth fastest lap in qualifying and started on the third row (6th). By Happy Hour on Saturday, the No. 6 ran the third fastest time of any car. Martin ran virtually the entire race in the field's top 10. The team used impressive work in the pits, with a late stop of 13.95 seconds that beat all the cars that made the same adjustment. He came out fifth on lap 233, with every car in front of him having taken no tires or only two. Martin would have made a solid run at the win, had the field remained green for the rest of the race. Still, Martin ran to the first of 12 top-five finishes in 2002.

MARTIN, VIAGRAģ RACING TEAM READY TO ROLL IN VEGAS

Fresh off of two top-10 starts to begin 2003, Mark Martin and the Viagraģ Racing team are ready to roll into Vegas. After a seventh -place finish at Rockingham, the Viagra Racing Team has now posted seven consecutive top-10 finishes dating back to Martinsville last fall. Martin moved up to fourth in the WC point's standings, as he heads to Las Vegas where he has never finished outside the field's top 10.

IN THE POINTS

Martin moved from fifth to fourth after last week's top-10 finish. Martin has ranked among the NASCAR Top 10 since Las Vegas last season. It is a run of 36 consecutive races, the longest streak among active drivers. He finished last season second in the championship race.

MARTIN A SURE BET IN VEGAS

No other driver has been as consistent in Las Vegas as Mark Martin. Martin is the only driver to have posted top-10 finishes in all five races in Vegas, including a third place run there last year. Martin one the inaugural race there in '98 and he's finished in the top-five in three of the five races, with third place finishes in both 2000 and 2002. His worst finish at Vegas was a 10th-place run in 1999 and he ran to a sixth place finish there in 2001.

THE CAR

The Viagraģ Racing Team will take JR-88 to Las Vegas this weekend. JR-88 last ran last season in the spring race at Bristol, where it fought to an 11th-place finish. Martin ran the car six times in 2001, finishing inside the top 10 three times, while posting two-top five finishes and taking the pole in the spring Bristol race of that season.

MARTIN FAST FACTS - LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

  • Mark Martin is the only driver to have completed every lap of all five Vegas races, accounting for 1,216 laps.
  • Martin leads all drivers with five top-10 finishes at Vegas.
  • Martin has a 9.2 average start at Las Vegas, the best of all drivers with starts in all five races.
  • Martin has a 4.6 average finish in Vegas, the best of all drivers.
  • Martin won the inaugural race at Vegas on March 1, 1998. It would be his first of a career-high eight wins that season.
  • Martin also won two poles and one victory in three Busch series races at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He finished second and sixth in the other two.
  • Martin also won two poles and one victory in three Busch series races at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He finished second and sixth in the other two.
  • Martin has been the Winston Cup Top-10 for 36 weeks, dating back to last year's Vegas race.
  • Martin has finished inside the top-10 in seven consecutive races, dating back to last year's fall Martinsville race.

QUOTING MARK

Mark Martin On The UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400:

"It's been a race track where we have run well over the years. We had a great run there last year and that is one of the places that we actually ran well two years ago. I like racing at Las Vegas. I like the track and we have a good record there. It suits my driving style. It's a race that is orientated towards handling and in the past we have excelled in that area. It's one of the places where you can pass and a lot of the outcome is in the driver's hands."

ONE OF NASCAR'S ALL-TIME ELITE, MARK MARTIN

  • Martin's 33 Winston Cup wins make him the fourth most winning active driver on the Cup circuit.
  • Martin has currently started 475 straight races, the fourth-longest string of any current driver and the eighth-longest streak in Cup history.
  • Martin's 41 all-time Winston Cup poles are the fifth most in Winston Cup History.
  • Martin ranks fifth all-time in Winston Cup points standings.
  • Martin has started 532 Winston Cup Races, finishing inside the top 10 on 317 occasions, inside the top five 201 times and visiting winner's circle 33 times.
  • Martin's 45 career wins in the Busch series are a NASCAR record.
  • Martin gets his 11th career IROC win, tying him for most series wins with Al Unser, Jr. and the late Dale Earnhardt. He also ties Earnhardt with four True Value IROC championships and holds a record of three consecutive titles.

THE NO. 6 VIAGRAģ RACING TEAM

  • BEN LESLIE, Crew Chief
  • TODD ZEIGLER, Car Chief/Front Tire Changer
  • DANNY EKLUND, Wind Shield
  • CHRIS HLADIK, Rear Tire Changer
  • WILL SMITH, Rear Tire Carrier
  • SCOTT KURTZ, Catch Can
  • CHRIS WEBB, Jack Man
  • BRIAN WEST, Fuel Runner
  • RICK MACHCINSKI, Motor Man/Gas Man
  • DAVE WEISS, Front Tire carrier
  • JIM DAVIS, 2nd Gas Can
  • PAUL SOUTHWORTH, Pit Support/Fabricator
  • GREG ELY, Shock Specialist
  • GENE HOPKINS, Pit Support
  • BART STARR, Truck Driver

Mark Martin, Roush Racing Have Shined In Las Vegas
WhoWon.com

Martin and Jeff Burton have led 32 percent of every Winston Cup lap ran at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 26, 2003) - Mark Martin and Roush Racing got off to an explosive start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 1998, seeing Martin win the inaugural event, while Roush put all five of it's Winston Cup cars inside the top-10.

For Martin the victory was one of the most memorable of his 33 Winston Cup wins.

"The win there in '98 is one of the most memorable I have," said Martin. "It was a lot like last season's win in the Coca-Cola 600, in the fact that we had a new team. It was a brand new track and a brand new team, and we were looking to see what we could do.

"I'll never forget leaving that night, after all the media stuff was done. We were flying out in the helicopter and I looked down over the track and realized what we had accomplished," added Martin. "It was kind of overwhelming. I've had a lot of success in NASCAR, but I've always been so busy looking to next week that I seldom stop to look at what we are doing. You could look down and see that track and realize that it wasn't some quarter-mile dirt track that we had just won on."

Martin has went on to finish inside the top-10 in all five of the Winston Cup races held at Las Vegas; he is the only Winston Cup driver to do so. He leads all drivers in average starts (9.2) and averages finishes (4.6). He has completed every lap of the 1,216 that have been ran there in Winston Cup racing. To boot, he also won two poles and one victory in three Busch series races at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and he finished second and sixth in the other two Busch races at Vegas.

Roush Racing's incredible success at Las Vegas doesn't end with Martin's success. In fact Roush Racing won the first three Winston Cup races there, with Jeff Burton winning in both 1999 and 2000. In Martin's inaugural win at the track, he edged teammate Jeff Burton by just 1.065 seconds. Burton is the only multiple race winner at Vegas and he has led a total of 204 laps on the track, the most of any Winston Cup driver, edging Martin who has led 186 laps at the 1.5-mile track. All in all, Martin and Burton have led 390 laps at Vegas, 32 percent of every lap ran there in Winston Cup race.

In addition Burton has scored four top-five finishes at Vegas. He has also posted a pair of victories in the Busch Grand National series at Vegas as well, including last year's race. Roush Racing's Greg Biffle won the Craftsman Truck series race in Vegas in 1999 and former Roush driver Joe Ruttman won the truck race there in 1997. Giving Roush a total of eight victories at the 1.5-mile oval.

Roush Racing is a subsidiary of Livonia, Mich., based Roush Industries that operates nine motorsports teams; five in NASCAR Winston Cup with drivers Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle; two in the Busch Series with Stanton Barrett and Burton; and two in the Craftsman Truck Series with drivers Jon Wood and Carl Edwards. Sponsorship inquiries should contact John Miller, Roush Racing, (704) 370-1010.

NASCAR Notes: Martin Back Chasing Elusive Title
By Dustin Long
The Roanoke Times
February 26, 2003

Mark Martin is more of a realist than an optimist. Although not an engineer, he often looks at issues analytically. While some might pity him for not having won a Winston Cup title and finishing second four times, Martin sees his results as quite an accomplishment.

That's why it's interesting to hear Martin talk about his Roush Racing team this year.

"As long as I've raced in my career, the package is the best it's ever been," Martin said of his team, car and crew.

If true, that could foreshadow quite a run for Martin. He enters this weekend's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway fourth in the points standings. Martin has been in the top 10 in the standings over the past 35 races, dating back to last year's Las Vegas race.

Even more impressive is that Martin is the only Cup driver to have finished in the top 10 in each of the previous five races at Las Vegas.

Despite those and other striking totals - Martin has 33 career Cup wins - the question always comes back to him being without a series title.

"I have a hard time understanding how finishing second in the Winston Cup championship is a bad thing," said Martin, the runner-up to series champ Tony Stewart last year. "I think it's a good thing.

"I've been very successful in Winston Cup, in Busch Grand National, in IROC, in ASA. I have a great career. Lots of wins. That's what has made my career. I wasn't disappointed with 2002. Matter of fact, I was incredibly proud in 2002. I hope I can be as proud or prouder in 2003."

TONING IT DOWN

Rusty Wallace angered some Chevrolet teams when he claimed they cheated at Daytona. Tuesday, Wallace tried to amend his comments.

"I'm not making any comments about any Chevrolet team," Wallace said. "I just thought that there were a lot of peculiar things going on, and NASCAR informed me that they're going to be wide open and looking for everybody at Talladega.

"I'm not going to say it was Chevrolets. I thought there were peculiar things going on with Fords. I think there were peculiar things going on with all kinds of different makes that didn't make sense with the way they qualified and the way they ran in the race. I did say the word Chevrolet but I sure didn't mean it was just Chevrolet."

FALLING BEHIND

After dominating Daytona's nonpoints events, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has fared poorly in the season's first two points races and is 38th in the standings.

An electrical problem forced Earnhardt Jr. to finish a lap behind the leaders in 36th place at Daytona. Last weekend at Rockingham, he was 33rd after a blown tire and two separate spins.

"This is not a 38th-place team, and I think everyone knows that," Earnhardt Jr. said. "But, we need to start putting together some finishes to get closer to the front of the points. I guess that goes without saying, but we struggled in the first two races last year, and we were back up to sixth in points after we won at Talladega a few weeks later."

PIT STOPS

Beginning Saturday, Martinsville Speedway's ticket office will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays through the Virginia 500, which is scheduled for April13. ... Robby Gordon and Greg Biffle are scheduled to compete in a dune buggy race in the sand dunes outside Las Vegas this week.

High Rolling Martin Heads To Vegas
fordracing.com
February 25, 2003

THIS WEEK IN FORD RACING

TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

Las Vegas ó Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, is off to a good start in 2003 with a pair of Top-10 finishes at Daytona International Speedway and North Carolina Speedway. Martin, who finished fifth in the Daytona 500 and seventh in last weekendís Subway 400, won the inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 1998. As the series makes its annual return visit this week, Martin spoke about his start and other issues as part of the weekly NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference.

MARK MARTIN

WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE STATS, YOU AND JEFF BURTON MUST BE THE GUYS TO BEAT.

"Donít forget Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth. Weíre pretty excited. Ben [Leslie, crew chief] and the whole team did such a great job at Daytona and Rockingham as well. We had a great car and had a better car than we finished at Rockingham, but weíre still pretty pleased with a seventh-place finish. That can be a tough place for people and has been for us sometimes in the past, but we had a great run. We had a little bit of a disappointment right there at the end. On the last run we got a little bit off on our chassis and fell behind, but weíre off to a great start. I really have a good team. Iím so thankful for the way things are going for us. My whole package, as long as Iíve raced in my career, the package is the best it has ever been."

ITíS NOT TOO EARLY TO START COUNTING POINTS IS IT?

"You really need to start somewhere back in the winter time. We did in 2002 and started in January and started doing that back in November for this year. So, yeah, weíre gonna give it our best shot. Weíre gonna try to race smart and be as strong as we can on the race track and try to make no mistakes. We hope we can do an even better job than last year."

IS THIS SEASON MORE IMPORTANT BECAUSE ITíS ON THE BACKSIDE OF YOUR CAREER?

"I donít feel a great sense of urgency because I have had so much success in my career. I donít feel a great sense of urgency, but the fierce competitor in my still views this as the best package Iíve ever had Ė the best sponsor, the best people to work with, the team, cars, the whole package is definitely the best Iíve ever had in my career. Iím feeling really good about that. Itís absolutely right, we need to maximize each and every opportunity even more now because you can see the end of the line out there now, whereas 15 years ago you couldnít even imagine something like that. It could be a great year for us. We have all the ingredients. We have the great race team that we had last year with a little bit more polish on it. We canít control the competition, but we can sure do everything we can with the part we do control."

COULD YOU HAVE DREAMED 15 YEARS AGO THAT YOU AND THE SPORT WOULD BE WHERE IT IS TODAY?

"No, because 15 years ago I didnít know if I was gonna make it or not. Even though there are a few things in my career that the media likes to focus on that I havenít done, I have achieved so much. I didnít even know if I was gonna be able to keep a job. In fact, I didnít there for a while in the beginning, so if you take the whole thing in perspective and look at it, you have to say that not only has NASCAR changed dramatically, but I have been really fortunate to have achieved a level of success that I have in it as well."

HOW MUCH IS HARD WORK, PERFECT TIMING AND LUCK?

"I donít think the timing was anywhere near perfect, so I donít think that was any benefit at all. The hard work certainly came at a premium and you have to be lucky to be successful. The best thing that ever happened in my career, by far, was hooking up with Jack Roush. Prior to that, my success in winning races and championships is what put me in a position to get the opportunity with Jack Roush, but the opportunity with Jack Roush is definitely what made my Winston Cup career."

DO YOU NEED A CHAMPIONSHIP FOR YOU TO FEEL LIKE YOUR CAREER IS COMPLETE?

ďNo, I donít. I have a hard time understanding how finishing second in the Winston Cup championship is a bad thing. Thatís hard for me to understand. I donít quite comprehend where people are coming from and I guess they donít mean it. I think itís a good thing. Iíve been very successful in Winston Cup and Busch Grand National and IROC and ASA. I have a great career, lots of wins, and thatís what has made my career. I will either win every championship that I run for from now on or I wonít win any or Iíll win some in between. I donít know, but the effort will be the same. I wasnít disappointed with 2002. As a matter of fact, I was incredibly proud of 2002 and I take a lot of pride in what we managed to do in 2002. I hope I can be as proud or prouder of 2003."

ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO LAS VEGAS?

"Yeah, I really like that track a lot. I really love the car that weíre taking there. Iíve got a great, great crew and weíre off to a good start. I think weíre gonna have an interesting weekend."

IS THIS A NEW CAR?

"No, itís real old. This car is four or five years old, but itís refurbished and weíve had it out testing twice over the winter. It appears to be my favorite 2003 car so far."

HOW HAS THE LAS VEGAS TRACK CHANGED SINCE WINSTON CUP STARTED RACING THERE?

"It had been around for about three years or so before we started going there and that was a good thing. It hasnít changed dramatically since then. Itís become possibly slightly wider on the groove, but it was already widened out to a reasonable two-groove race track the first time we went there. I think the new edge had already worn off of it before Winston Cup started racing there. The new edge on the race tracks is usually not a good thing for racing. Itís a good thing for speed, but itís not a good thing for the show, so that edge had already sort of worn off."

IS LAS VEGAS BECOMING A BETTER TRACK OR GOING THE OTHER WAY?

"I think almost all the race tracks, I canít think of a single race track that would be going the other way. All race tracks actually need some age on the pavement itself to be a great race track. Atlanta was almost a nightmare with new paving and now itís wonderful to race on, but itís got quite a few years on it now and it has become a great race track to race on now."

DOES IT GET FRUSTATING FOR YOU PERSONALLY TO COME SO CLOSE TO A CHAMPIONSHIP?

"No, it doesnít get frustrating."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT RACING IN IROC?

"Itís an enormous sense of pride for me. I participated seven years in a row and I finished second three times and won four championships. I think I finished second to Earnhardt each of those other three years, so I felt like that was a true testament to luck because I certainly couldnít have possibly been that good."

DO YOU FEEL THE YOUNG GUYS HAVE CREATED BETTER COMPETITION FOR THE OLDER GUYS?

"No, that gives you guys something to write about. The age difference between Kurt Busch and Dale Jarrett is something to write about, but itís nothing when weíre on the race track. Itís not an issue. Itís an issue of who has got the best car and who does the best job. Thatís all it really is. It isnít someone with gray hair against someone with a spiked haircut. Itís not about that, but, obviously, there is a certain degree of excitement to see incredibly young, incredibly talented new faces come into the sport. Itís a thrill for me. Itís exciting for me to see that, but I think what youíre getting at I donít see. We as competitors donít see that. The only reason that thereís anything being said of it is because there has been such a big deal made out of it by the media."

BEN LESLIE

WHAT ABOUT LAS VEGAS HAVE YOU LEARNED THAT NOBODY ELSE KNOWS?

"I donít know how much weíve learned or havenít learned. I think weíve learned that we have drivers that really like Las Vegas. The first key to getting around Las Vegas is to have a driver that loves the place and knows how to get around it. Thatís one of Markís favorite tracks, so that right there gets you one step closer as far as being a little more dialed in."

DO YOU STILL SEE MARK AS A LEGITIMATE TITLE CONTENDER?

"Absolutely. I see the same thing Jack [Roush] does. Iíve seen Mark race for a bunch of years and worked on his cars a couple years before recently getting even closer within the last two years. In my opinion, I havenít seen the peak of Mark Martin yet. Thatís my opinion."

WHAT ABOUT THIS CAR YOUíRE TAKING TO LAS VEGAS?

"It hasnít been to Las Vegas. This is a car we used last year and we did a complete re-build on it. We re-bodied it and stripped it all down. We tested with it a couple times in Kentucky and Mark was just real happy with the way it drove. Seeing as how Kentucky and Vegas are similar, not exactly the same but it has some of the same characteristics, we decided to take it as opposed to a car that we actually planned on taking, which was a brand new car. That one just didnít feel quite as right at Kentucky."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT AN HONOR IT IS TO WORK WITH SOMEONE LIKE MARK?

"Itís an awesome experience because it helps you more than just in racing, it helps you in life to be around somebody like Mark that has a true never-quit philosophy. He makes you look at not only racing, but a lot of things in life. You sit back and say, ĎDoggone it, it didnít work out for me, but Iím not gonna stop trying. I know it will work, Iíve just got to keep going.í Itís an awesome situation to be in actually. Itís helped me personally in racing and in my personal life."

DID YOU EVER THINK YOU WOULD GET A CHANCE LIKE THIS?

"No. I knew where I wanted to be as far as at least working on a Winston Cup team and working with one of the top drivers, Mark being in my opinion the top driver. I knew where I wanted to be, but I didnít expect to get this far. This was a little bit of a surprise that it came to me this quick."

DOES VEGAS CARRY OVER TO THE NEXT FEW RACES?

"Setup-wise, Vegas is gonna be something different than the next couple of races Ė Darlington, Texas and Atlanta. It takes a little bit of a different setup, but you can carry some aero-balance issues over. If you have an issue with front downforce or rear downforce, Vegas will really be your first big key to knowing what you have going on and you can get to work on it before you maybe even get to Atlanta. And then maybe you can have it fixed before you get to Texas, but as far as chassis setup thereís not a lot. The aero-balance and driver comfort, thereís a fair amount of similarity just because of the speed and the way the track is as far as being flat and really fast."

SO IF YOUíRE FAST AT VEGAS, YOU SHOULD BE GOOD AT ATLANTA AND TEXAS, AND IF YOUíRE BAD YOU HAVE A LOT MORE WORK?

"Exactly right. If youíre bad, youíve got to overcome some aero issues. If youíre good, then as long as you donít miss the chassis setup and miss the springs and bar setup, you know that your aero package is real close."

HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT?

"Anymore itís incredible. The aero-balance is incredible on these cars anymore. Itís not where it was last year. Itís not where it was five years ago. Itís 100 times where it was seven years ago. The aero-balance is almost as important as what springs and shocks you have on the car. You hear about everybody getting an aero-push behind cars and all that. If you can get that out of your car, then youíve done something that nobody else has been able to do and itís a huge advantage. The aero deal, even with the new templates and everything, still plays such a major role in these cars. Like I said, itís just as important as the right springs and shocks and bars."

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN CREWMAN WHEN YOU HAVE OPENINGS AND DO YOU SEE NASCAR TECH EVENTUALLY PROVIDING PERSONNEL?

"Absolutely. Right now when we go out looking for a person we look at their experience and background. We also look at their people skills because itís such a team-oriented industry. The other things that we look at is what theyíve done in the past, what can they bring to the table for us. Weíre not just hiring mechanics. Weíre not just hiring somebody that bolts cars together. We want somebody thatís gonna bring something to the table, bring something new to us that we havenít seen and maybe answer some questions that we donít understand that someone is doing. The NASCAR Tech deal will and has provided people that will help the industry. The day and age that you get somebody who worked in a garage or tune-up shop to start on the ground floor and being a mechanic on Winston Cup cars is kind of gone. Those people start in ARCA and thatís what we end up doing, looking at people in the ARCA division, looking at people in the Busch division and look at people who have kind of paid their dues and come up through the ranks. When they come in, theyíve got a lot of background knowledge. Theyíve been through a lot of tough times, so to speak, and have figured things out for themselves. Then we just take them and go to the next level and polish on them a little bit."

IS STARTING AT A LOCAL TRACK THE BEST WAY TO GET STARTED?

"I believe so. Thereís no substitute for putting time in on the job. You can teach and show people a lot of stuff, but until you get put in situations and have to figure things out for yourself, which, like I say, local tracks and the ARCA division Ė a lot of that stuff puts you in situations that takes a lot of aptitude to figure out. Then, obviously, with that being a lower budgeted division, all that does is grow character and thatís a major plus as well."

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO WORK WITH KURT BUSCH?

Kurt is extremely talented. Heís a great talent. Me and Kurt were both kind of at the same point in our careers. We were both rookies, so there were times when the one couldnít help the other. Whatís happened is weíve just coupled experience with inexperience with the switch we did last year. Itís grown both teams. Rather than having two rookies kind of floundering and some weeks hit on it and some weeks miss it and watch that grow together. Instead, if you switch and put your strong person with your weak person and vice versa, it brings your two rookie people up fast and it also, because of the rookies having a different outlook on things sometimes, it also takes the older more experienced people and gives them a new look on some things."

SO YOU"RE NOT SURPRISED WITH KURTíS RUN RECENTLY?

"Absolutely not. Heís got so much talent itís incredible. Heís an extremely talented driver and heís a real good person to be around. Nothing would shock me out of what Kurt Busch can accomplish."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE INSPECTION PROCESS?

"I think John Darby and all the officials have done a great job as far as keeping the playing field level. Inspection is harder to get through and it does take a lot more focus on things, but as long as itís even across the board, thatís all I ask for as a competitor. As long as everybody is going through the same inspection process that I am, and I feel confident that they are, then thatís all Iím worried about. It is harder. Rockingham was a lot harder than what maybe Rockingham was in the spring last year and the spring before that, but it was harder on everybody. It is what it is."

HOW MANY INSPECTIONS TO YOU GO THROUGH AND HOW DO YOU USE TEMPLATES AT THE SHOP?

"For instance, the car that we took to Rockingham, which we were fortunate to get our sticker on the first try because everything passed, that car had every template put on it three different times. Itís just a fact of checking and double-checking. When the sheet metal gets hung on the plate, before it gets off the plate every template gets put on it. When it goes to the body shop and theyíre getting ready to put paint on it, before they put paint on it every template went over that car again. And then on Tuesday of last week every template went over that car again before we loaded it up. Thatís just what inspection takes now. Theyíre enforcing the templates that we have and the onus comes back on the teams to make sure and double-check and triple-check themselves that itís right when you unload."

WHAT DRIVES YOU AS A CREW CHIEF?

"I think itís everything. Itís the competition and coming out at the end of the day knowing you were in the Top 5 or Top 10 or were the best. Itís the love of racing. For me, itís the love of seeing a car thatís been put together with just absolute perfect standards. The quality of work that people do and just having a car that is a true hand-built piece in which every piece on it has been built to its absolute best possible standards. It all goes hand-in-hand for me. When we unload a car, Iím proud to stand next to it. Thatís the love of racing for me, to have a really nice piece and then to take what you think is a perfect car and make something out of it on a given Sunday. Thatís what the whole deal is for me."

HOW DEEP CAN THE FRUSTRATION GO?

"I donít know that there is any limit to how deep the frustration can go. On bad days, itís almost unbearable. On good days, thereís nothing like it. The frustration on a bad day is unimaginable, but the feeling you get on a day where everything goes right or even only half the things go right but you end up with a good finish, thatís also another situation thatís almost unexplainable."

WOULD YOU BE DISAPPOINTED IF MARK DIDNíT WIN A TITLE?

"I would be disappointed for him in the fact that I couldnít take what I feel is the best driver in the garage and win a championship. I know from talking to him that he feels he has no reservations about anything thatís happened in his career or any championships that he might have won or might not have won because heís had such a great career. Myself, to be selfish, I would like to be able to put him in a position to win his championship."

Viagraģ Racing Team Runs To Seventh-Place Finish At Rockingham
Mark Martin and the #6 Viagraģ Racing Team
North Carolina Speedway/February 23, 2003
Roush Racing

Rockingham, N.C. (Feb. 23, 2003) - The Viagraģ (sildenafil citrate) Racing Team kept Mark Martin in the front of the pack all day with several clutch pit stops that helped propel Martin to his seventh consecutive top-10 finish dating back to October of last season.

The Viagraģ Racing Team put Martin in the lead on three separate occasions, and gained Martin several positions in the pits during the course of the race.

"If we had had as good of a car today as we had pit stops, we would have ran away with the thing," said crew chief Ben Leslie. "The guys just did a wonderful job in the pits all day and we gained a lot on our stops."

"This was just an awesome team effort," said Mark Martin. "The guys just did an outstanding job all day.

"We had a great day, especially on short runs," added Martin. "We just got caught up in lapped traffic on the last restart and we wore the tires out a little and dropped back. If the race had continued going the way it was, with short runs, we would have definitely finished in the top three."

The team ran only one practice session the entire weekend, as rain cancelled both sessions on Saturday. Martin's car was fast off the truck and Martin reeled off the third fastest lap in qualifying on Friday and starting on the inside of the second row.

Once the green flag started, Martin wasted little time moving to the front, taking the lead by lap nine. Martin held the lead for the next 10 laps before dropping to second. By the 25th lap, the car starting to get loose and Martin had dropped back to fifth place when a competition caution was called.

The team reeled off the first off several impressive stops on the day, taking four tires and fuel while making wedge and air pressure adjustments in just over 15 seconds. The team gained a couple of stops and returned to the field in third place when the race went green on lap 54.

Martin was running in third when the day's second caution was called on lap 86. Martin came into the pits for four tires and fuel and after an excellent stop of 14.4 seconds, returned to the field in the lead when the race went green on lap 93.

Martin had dropped to fourth place on lap 106 when caution was called for the third time in the race. Another quick stop of 13.9 seconds, sent Martin back out in second place when the race went green again on lap 112.

After another caution on lap 121, Martin came into the pits running in second place. After another fast stop of 13.92 seconds Martin again returned to the field leading the race. Martin dropped back to second place on the next lap where he ran for the next 46 laps before the day's fourth caution on lap 172.

The No. 6 Viagraģ Race Team came in for four tires, fuel and additional air pressure adjustments. After a 14 second stop, Martin again returned to the field in first, leading for the fourth time of the day.

By lap Martin had dropped to third. As the car started to loosen up, Martin fell to eighth place where he was running when the field began green-flag pitting on lap 253. The team posted another solid stop and Martin was running in third place once the field cycled through on lap 261.

Martin was running in fifth place when caution number five was issued on lap 174. Martin brought the Pfizer No. 6 Ford Taurus in for four tires and fuel and again the Viagra‚ Racing Team came through with a 14 second stop that gained Martin two place up to second when the race went green on lap 291.

The team would pit again on lap 299 for the seventh and final time on the day's final caution. Running in second place, a 14.32 second stop sent Martin back out into the race in fifth position, but second among the cars that pitted.

Martin got caught up in lapped traffic on the restart and quickly dropped to fifth place. Battling the traffic put wear on the tires of the No. 6 Pfizer Ford and Martin was never able to recover. By lap 384 the No. 6 Ford had dropped to eighth place. Martin was able to gain one more position back to seventh before the checkered flag dropped.

"We had a really fast car here," said Martin. "Probably better than the finish indicates, but it was still a good run. The highlight is the team's effort in the pits. They really did a wonderful job all day of getting me out in front of the pack."

Martin was one of three Roush Racing drivers that finished in the top-10, along with teammates Kurt Busch (2) and Matt Kenseth (3).

The Viagraģ Racing Team will return to action next Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Martin Ready To Roll At "The Rock"
fordracing.com
February 21, 2003

Photo Image By Autostock

Rockingham, N.C. ó Going to a one-lap qualifying session due to rain, Dave Blaney won his first-ever pole award tonight at North Carolina Speedway for Sunday's Subway 400.

In similar fashion to last November's Winston Cup race at "The Rock," Mark Martin's name was listed directly below Johnny Benson's. Benson won the fall race and Martin finished second. During tonight's qualifying, Benson qualified second, followed by Martin in third.

MARK MARTIN - NO. 6 VIAGRA TAURUS

SPARKS WERE FLYING OFF THE TURN.

ďYeah, we were going fast enough to drag. We got a real nice lap. I scared myself the first lap, probably a little bit too much because I was about shook up by the time I got done with the second lap. I was really surprised the second lap was faster. Itís real fun for me to go after it all the first lap. I like one-lap qualifying. I like doing that to myself. Thatís how I do my deal. As cold as it is, the tires are not really in so I had it on the knife edge for sure.Ē

MARK MARTIN PRESS CONFERENCE

ďWith the new templates we had to put a whole new body on it, so we went into race trim and thatís given us a little bit more a time. Weíve got a little bit of homework to do on the thing to make it as good as it was last year. I think thatíll be a great challenge, but it was a great run for us. We hit it just right. I had a great lap, the second lap especially. The first lap I thought I was getting all there was there and I had to hold my breath. I just about ran out of breath by the time I got done with the second lap and I was glad it was over with when we finished. When I was in the middle of [Turns] 3 and 4 I thought, 'Man, I better just slow down and rest here a minute,í but we made it all the way to the line. It was a lot faster than I thought it would be. When he said an .82 the first lap I thought, ĎWell, maybe weíll run an .80 or a .78,í which is what we ran in practice, but I guess the car hooked up better than I thought and hit it just right.Ē

WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE IN RACE TRIM?

ďI do know about a lot of these other guys, but for us we have lost a lot of downforce compared to last year and we miss that a lot more in race trim when you take the tape off the radiator. Itís gonna be more difficult for us to get the kind of performance we got last year with our cars right now because weíve suffered quite a bit of a loss based on the í03 templates. We have known this since mid-November, so weíre gonna have to go to work. We saw it more today in race trim than ever.Ē

WILL IT MATTER WHERE YOU START?

ďIíll just say that not many people worked that hard on qualifying today. This is not a typical day and this is one of the greatest race tracks there is for racing and for passing, so I donít think anyone was concerned about having to start in the back here like they would be at a lot of other places. I think it has to do more with ease of passing and the safety issues. We donít run over each other a lot here and the passing issue and the weather and what have you.Ē

ARE YOU SURPRISED THE FASTEST CHEVY WAS 10TH?

ďIím very surprised. It may just be a coincidence. The weekendís not over with yet, but, yeah, I noticed that. Iím sweating that. That crowd is awfully happy - a lot happier with their cars than they were with their cars last year and we are not as happy with our cars as we were last year, so that, obviously, is something that Iím watching and concerned about. This is racing, man. There are all kinds of coincidences, although I donít think Daytona was a coincidence every single time. We saw those guys really consistently dominate, but this is great, man. Weíre back racing and weíre gonna learn a lot of stuff the next few weeks here and weíll all be able to talk a lot more intelligently about those kinds of issues after we get a couple of these races under our belt.Ē

Martin To Serve As Grand Marshal For Saturday's Rockingham 200 Busch Race
Martin Won A Record 11 Busch Races and Captured Six Poles at "The Rock"
Roush Racing

Huntersville, NC (Feb. 20, 2003) - Roush Racing's Mark Martin will serve as the Grand Marshal for Saturday's Rockingham 200 Busch Grand National Series race. Martin, who won 11 Busch races at Rockingham and captured six poles, will give the command to start engines.

Martin holds virtually every record for the 200-mile event of which he competed on 25 occasions, finishing inside the top five 16 times and in the top 10 on 20 occasions, before retiring from the Busch series after the 2000 season.

"It's an honor to be recognized for something that you accomplished in your career," said Martin. "We had a lot of good Busch races at Rockingham over the years and a lot of other people were responsible for that as well. Still I do appreciate the honor and look forward to it on Saturday."

Martin led a total of 1,740 laps in Busch races, winning his first Busch race in Rockingham in 1988 and his final race there in 2000.

Fresh off of a top-five finish in the Daytona 500 last week, Martin will hope to further his Rockingham success in this weekend's Subway 400. Martin finished second in the fall Winston Cup race at Rockingham last season.

In addition to his feats in the Busch car, Martin has tallied two wins, five poles, 11 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes in 33 starts at Rockingham in a Winston Cup car.

Martin's combined record at the track is 13 wins, 11 poles, 27 top-five finishes and 38 top-10 finishes in 58 starts.

Mark Martin - Busch Race Records at Rockingham:

Most Wins: 11
Most Poles: 6
Race record: 124.397 mph, 1996 ACDelco 200, 10/19/96
Most Top 5: 16
Most Top 10: 20
Widest margin of victory: 13.4 seconds, 1998 Goodwrench 200, 3/5/88
Most Competitive Miles: 4,628
Most Consecutive Pole Postions: 3, Mark Martin, 1999 Kmart 200 (10/22/99) through 2000 Sam's Club 200 (10/20/00)
Most Consecutive Victories: 4, Mark Martin, 1996 Goodwrench Service 200 (2/24/96) through 1997 ACDelco 200 (10/25/97)
Most Races Led, Career: 20, Mark Martin
Most Times Led, Career: 60, Mark Martin
Most Laps Led, Career: 1,740, Mark Martin

Roush Racing is a subsidiary of Livonia, Mich., based Roush Industries that operates nine motorsports teams; five in NASCAR Winston Cup with drivers Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle; two in the Busch Series with Stanton Barrett and Burton; and two in the Craftsman Truck Series with drivers Jon Wood and Carl Edwards. Sponsorship inquiries should contact John Miller, Roush Racing, (704) 370-1010.

Martin, No.6 Viagraģ Racing Team Roll Into Rockingham
Roush Racing

Huntersville, NC (Feb. 19, 2003) - Fresh off their solid fifth-place-finish in the Daytona 500, Mark Martin and the No. 6 Viagraģ (sildenafil citrate) Racing team are ready to return to the track for this Sunday's Subway 400 in Rockingham.

Martin and the No. 6 team will also run a special Pfizer paint scheme on the No. 6 Ford Taurus this weekend.

"It's nice to get off to a good start," said Martin referring to last week's fifth-place finish at Daytona, the 315th top-10 finish of Martin's Winston Cup career. "We were able to do that last year as well and hopefully we can have another strong finish this week. It'll be good to get on a non-restrictor plate track, where things are more in the hands of the drivers.

"Rockingham is really the start of what we do week in and week out," added Martin. "It's a great track and it's a good race where you can run anywhere on the track. We are looking very forward to getting out there and I feel really good about where we are as a team this year, especially after a year under our belts together."

Rockingham is familiar ground for Martin, who will start his 34th Winston Cup race on the 1.017 mile oval. In fact, Martin earned his first career Winston Cup victory at "The Rock" in 1989, taking the checkered flag in the AC Delco 500 on October 22, 1989.

"It was well overdue, when we finally got it," said Martin referring to that first win in 1989. "We had run second several times and it finally all came together at the right time."

Still Martin says that Rockingham is just another track on circuit. "I'm reminded of it (the first win) more by the media than anything else. I've had a lot of success there-a lot of Busch success. It's a track that has been good to me. We won again there in '99."

Martin won the Dura-Lube 400 at Rockingham in 1999, his only Cup win there in the spring race, but he says despite the success he has enjoyed "The Rock" always presents a challenge. Martin finished 21st there last spring, where the team struggled with the car's setup all weekend and eventually found themselves a lap down and out of contention for the majority of the race.

"It's been kind of tough at times and it's a great challenge to me," said Martin. "It can be very challenging to get set up for and be good on the long run."

Martin and crew chief Ben Leslie as well as the rest of the Viagraģ Racing Team rebounded in the fall with a strong Rockingham performance, qualifying 5th and running to a solid second-place finish in a race that Martin contended late for the win.

In over 20 years of racing at Rockingham, Martin has racked up 18 top-10 finishes, 11 top-five finishes and two victories at the track. At the spring race he has ran 17 times, with eight top-10 finishes, five top-five finishes and one victory.

Over the years, Martin has been so successful at Rockingham in both the Busch and Cup series that many fans coin the track "Mark-ingham." He wracked up 11 victories in Rockingham while running in the Busch series, as well as six poles.

For Martin, who's 33 all-time Winston Cup victories are the forth most among active Cup drivers, this will mark his 475th straight Cup start.

Roush Racing is a subsidiary of Livonia, Mich., based Roush Industries that operates nine motorsports teams; five in NASCAR Winston Cup with drivers Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle; two in the Busch Series with Stanton Barrett and Burton; and two in the Craftsman Truck Series with drivers Jon Wood and Carl Edwards. Sponsorship inquiries should contact John Miller, Roush Racing, (704) 370-1010.

2003 Mark Martin Track Notes
Viagraģ (sildenafil citrate) Roush Racing #6 Ford Taurus
Subway 400 - North Carolina Speedway
WhoWon.com
February 18, 2003

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 18, 2003) - Mark Martin and the Viagra Racing team are primed for another strong season. The Viagra racing team got off to a strong start in Daytona and look to carry that momentum into Rockingham this weekend, where Martin has won twice and posted 18 top-five finishes in 33 races.

LAST SEASON AT THE SUBWAY 400

Subway 400 - Started 17th, Finished 21st

The No. 6 team ran a special "Pfizer" paint scheme for the second race of the season. The team struggled with the car's setup for all three of the practice sessions, but did post the fourth-fastest time of Saturday's happy hour. Still they had a hard time finding the right setup. Martin started the race 17th and experienced handling pr oblems from the start. With the leaders running almost three-tenths of a second faster, Martin fell off the lead lap on lap 69. The team finally found the right adjustments during a stop on lap 287, and they were able to run times as fast or faster than the leaders. However Martin was never able to get the lost lap back and went on to a 21st-place finish.

SPECIAL PFIZER PAINT SCHEME

For the third year in a row, Martin will run a 'special' Pfizer paint scheme on his No. 6 Ford Taurus in Rockingham.

STRONG RUN AT DAYTONA

For the second straight year, Martin and the Viagra Racing Team got off to a strong start at the Daytona 500. Last week Martin ran to only his fifth top-five finish in 19 starts in the 500. It marked Martin's third consecutive top-10 finish at Daytona and his second top-five in a row at the 2.5-mile track.

THE CAR

The Viagra Racing Team will take JR-95 to Rockingham. JR-95 last ran a Rockingham in the fall race, where it qualified fifth and ran to an impressive second place finish. Other highlights for JR-95 include a second-place run at Dover in the fall and an impressive run at the Dover spring race that saw Martin gain a huge lead before getting caught up in an accident.

VICTORIOUS RETURN TO IROC

Martin marked his return to the IROC series with a bang, leading 21 of 40 laps and capturing his record tying 11th win (Dale Earnhardt, Al Unser Jr.) Martin who won the IROC championship in '94, '96, '97 and '98 is vying for his record fifth championship in 2003. The next IROC race will take place in Talladega.

ROCKINGHAM THE SIGHT OF MARTIN'S FIRST WINSTON CUP WIN

Mark Martin scored his first Winston Cup Win at Rockingham on Oct. 22, 1989. One of NASCAR's all-time top drivers, Mark Martin has currently started 531 Winston Cup races, including 474 straight. In that span Martin has tallied 316 top-10 finishes and 201 top-fives. Martin has finished second in the championship hunt on four occasions, including last season when he ran to 22 top-10 finishes and 12 top-fives in 33 starts.

ONE OF NASCAR's ALL-TIME ELITE, MARK MARTIN

  • Martin's 33 Winston Cup wins make him the fourth most winning active driver on the Cup circuit.
  • Martin has currently started 474 straight races, the fourth-longest string of any current driver and the eighth-longest streak in Cup history.
  • Martin's 41 all-time Winston Cup poles are the fifth most in Winston Cup History.
  • Martin ranks fifth all-time in Winston Cup points standings.
  • Martin has started 531 Winston Cup Races, finishing inside the top 10 on 316 occasions, inside the top five 201 times and visiting winner's circle 33 times.
  • Martin's 45 career wins in the Busch series are a NASCAR record.
  • Martin gets his 11th career IROC win, tying him for most series wins with Al Unser, Jr. and the late Dale Earnhardt. He also ties Earnhardt with four True Value IROC championships and holds a record of three consecutive titles.

FAST FACTS

  • Martin's Five Poles Ties for the most at Rockingham.
  • Martin raced to his first career Winston Cup Victory at Rockingham in the AC-Delco 500 on October 22, 1989.
  • Martin has 23 top-10 starts, 18 top-10 finishes and 11 top-five finishes in 33 races at Rockingham.
  • Martin has currently scored six straight top-10 and four straight top-five finishes, dating back to last season.
  • Mark Martin has finished eighth or better, including one victory, in seven of the last 11 races at Rockingham.
  • Martin holds virtually every record in the Rockingham Busch race, including 11 wins and six poles.

QUOTING MARK

ON THE ROCK

"It's a challenging track that can be really tough at times. It's a great challenge for me and for any driver. It can be really hard to figure out the right setup, but it can be a great track on the long runs. Last year we nailed the setup in the second race, but were just awful in the first race there. Hopefully we can use some of the knowledge we gained a year ago and have a good run there.

"I'm looking forward to getting on the track there. It's a track where you can run anywhere on the track and you can pass. It's really more of the start of what we do each week. I prefer the tracks where more control is in the hands of the drivers and Rockingham is that type of track.

ON SPEEDWEEKS AND THE DAYTONA 500

"I'm excited about this season. The guys worked really hard in Daytona and we came out of there with a better finish than we could have imagined. We lost our primary car in the Twin 125's and the guys just did a remarkable job of fighting through it and giving me the best car possible. I don't think that I deserved a top-five finish, but the Viagra Racing Team surely did. Ben Leslie and the crew just did a remarkable job at Speedweeks. p>
Viagraģ Racing Team Opens Season With 5th-Place Finish In Daytona 500
Mark Martin and the #6 Viagraģ Racing Team
Daytona International Speedway/February 16, 2003
Roush Racing

DAYTONA, FLA. (Feb. 16, 2003) - Mark Martin and the Viagraģ (sildenafil citrate) Racing Team got off to a strong start in 2003 with a top-five finish in the famed Daytona 500. The finish closed the curtains on what had been an up and down Speedweeks for Martin and his team, who were forced to use the backup car after getting involved in a wreck in Thursday's Twin 125's.

"This was just an awesome team effort," said Martin shortly after NASCAR announced that it would not restart in the rain delayed field. "It wasn't a pretty Speedweeks, but somehow the guys got it done. You just couldn't have asked for a better finish."

"The Viagraģ Racing Team and Ben Leslie were just brilliant today," added Martin. "I don't deserve this finish, but this team does. They worked so hard to get us in that position. This is all about the team, they deserve a top five."

Martin would have started the 500 in 28th position, but had to go to the back of the field after being forced to use his backup car after hitting the wall late in Thursday's Twin 125. The veteran driver, starting his 19th Daytona 500, ended up starting 41st, but wasted no time moving up the field.

Martin moved inside the top 30 by the end of the first lap. By the fifth lap of the race, Martin had cracked the top 20, running at 19th. Martin had dropped back to 24th when the field began to pit on lap 32. The Viagraģ Racing Team came in for two tires and a wedge adjustment. After a quick stop of 7.25 seconds, the No. 6 was running in eighth place once the field cycled through on lap 36.

Martin had moved to sixth place by lap 41, when the day's first caution was called. The team came into the pits for four tires and further wedge adjustments. Some teams chose to take only two tires and Martin was running in 11th place when the field went green on lap 45.

Shuffled outside the draft, Martin had fallen to 19th place when the day's second caution was called on lap 57. The team came into the pits for right side tires and returned to the field in 17th place. Moments later, the field was red-flagged for heavy rain after 67 laps.

After an hour-long delay, the cars returned to the track. Martin was running in 15th place when the field went green. The No. 6 dropped back to 18th place by lap 74, before Martin began to mount a run that would see the No. 6 Viagraģ Ford Taurus running 11th by lap 88. Martin had moved back down to 14th when the day's third caution occurred on lap 95. With dark rain clouds on the horizon, Martin the No. 6 Team came into the pits for two tires.

Once the entire field had cycled through, Martin was running in eighth place following 99 laps. Once the field had completed 100 laps, rain became a constant threat to bring a premature end to the race. Martin was running in fourth place when the day's fourth caution was called on lap 102. Knowing the race could end at any moment, the team opted to stay out and in fourth place when the field went green on lap 104.

Martin was running in fifth place when the day's fifth and final caution was called on lap 106. Heavy rains returned soon after and the race was red flagged once again on lap 109. It would be the final lap of the race.

The finish was Martin's fourth top-five finish at the Daytona 500 and his sixth top-ten finish. It marks the second top-six finish in a row for Martin in the 500 and his 201st career top-five Winston Cup Finish. It is also his 316th career top-ten Winston Cup finish.

"It was just a great finish to a great run," said Martin. "Nothing came easy for this team, but we kept digging and I couldn't be happier with this finish."

Martin and the No. 6 Viagraģ Racing Team will take to the track next week in Rockingham.

Mark Martin wins the True Value IROC XVII Opener. The Race-One Daytona victory gives Martin his 11th career IROC win, tying him for most series wins with Al Unser, Jr. and the late Dale Earnhardt. He also ties Earnhardt with four True Value IROC championships and holds a record of three consecutive titles.


NASCAR driver Mark Martin lifts his trophy after winning the IROC Series
Friday, February 14, 2003, at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.
(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)


Mark Martin celebrates his win in the IROC race at Daytona International Speedway, Friday, Feb. 14, 2003, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Paul Kizle)

Mark Martin, No. 6 Viagra Ford Taurus:

"It was a great race. This place has not been overly kind to me in the past, so this is a little bit of sunshine in our speedweeks. It's been a couple of years since I have been invited to compete in IROC, and I had a wonderful record that I had to think about before accepting the invitation to come back and take a chance at taking some of the shine off that last seven years that I ran with IROC. I really had some spectacular runs in the past, and I decided it was my opportunity to come and maybe make it five championships. So instead of being tied with Earnhardt, maybe I can take that record over myself."

Mark Martin Wins Opening Round Of IROC
By Mike Harris
AP Motorsports Writer
February 14, 2003

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- A victory in the opening round of the International Race of Champions has Mark Martin well on the way to the goals that brought him back to the all-star series this year.

Martin, a four-time series champion, beat Roush Racing teammate and IROC rookie Kurt Busch to the finish line Friday by 0.123-second - about 1 1/2 car-lengths. That gave him a record-tying 11th IROC victory.

Martin was insulted when he wasn't invited to participate in IROC the past two years because he failed to finish among the top five in NASCAR's Winston Cup series in either 2000 or 2001.

It was the possibility of matching or beating the series record for victories by the late Dale Earnhardt and Al Unser Jr., and the chance to break a tie with Earnhardt for the most IROC titles that brought Martin back.

Martin's win Friday was a big step toward passing seven-time Winston Cup champion Earnhardt and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Unser on the victory list.

After emerging from his car with a big smile, Martin thanked IROC officials for inviting him back.

"To come back like this after sitting out is special," he said. "I'm the kind of guy that likes being on top and likes being respected. It was very important to me to come out and have a strong year in IROC."

As for matching Unser and Earnhardt, Martin had nothing but praise for them.

"Al Jr. was the best all-around guy I've ever seen ... and, of course, Earnhardt. Everybody knows how tough Earnhardt was to beat," he said.

The winner dominated the 100-mile race for 12 identically prepared IROC Firebirds, leading 21 of the 40 laps, including the final nine.

Busch, one of NASCAR's noted "Young Guns," worked with Martin at the front early in the race, but was penalized after going under the yellow line at the bottom of the banked track to pass World of Outlaws sprint car star Steve Kinser.

"I got inside of him and I saw him starting to move down," Busch said. "Kinser kept coming and coming and coming, and I went below the yellow line to save his car and my car."

As Busch swept past, Indy Racing League driver Felipe Giaffone, also an IROC rookie, slipped in the middle of a three-wide draft, tagged the rear of Kinser's car, and sent Kinser spinning through the grass.

That brought out the only caution flag of the race, and Busch was at the rear of the field when racing resumed.

By the end, he had worked himself up behind Danny Lasoski, another World of Outlaws star. They got into a side-by-side duel on the last lap that allowed Martin to stay out front without challenge.

"Lasoski and I were duking it out," Busch said. "Maybe we should have worked together to get past Mark, but the classiest guy won the race today."

NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle, the Busch Series champ, finished fourth and fifth, followed by Kinser, Winston Cup driver Kevin Harvick, two-time IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr., NASCAR truck champion Mike Bliss, Giaffone, two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves and 2002 Winston Cup rookie of the year Ryan Newman.

Castroneves was the only other driver to get in trouble Friday, getting forced off the track into the grass at nearly 180 mph. Somehow, he got the car back onto the track and under control without even losing the draft.

Mark Martin - True Value IROC Results
Associated Press
February 14, 2003

Daytona International Speedway - Lap Length: 2.5-mile oval

40 laps, 100 miles

Finish, Start, Driver, Representing, Laps Completed, mph, Points

1. (8) Mark Martin, NASCAR Winston Cup, 40 laps, 177.253 mph, 26 points

Low Road Gives Martin IROC Victory
By Sean Kernan, Staff Writer
News-Journal Online - SPEED Magazine
February 14, 2003

DAYTONA BEACH -- Mark Martin had a friend in a low place Friday and that was the key in the veteran Winston Cup driver's victory in the True Value IROC XXVII at Daytona International Speedway.

Martin was able to hold on for the win after sprint-car racer Danny Lasoski went high for a last-lap pass and Kurt Busch, who just so happens to be Martin's Roush Racing teammate, went low effectively eliminating the draft for himself and Lasoski. However, the low groove enabled Busch to take second place from Lasoski.

Martin, a four-time IROC champion, made his return to the all-star style racing series a successful one as he won his 11th race overall, tying Al Unser Jr. and the late Dale Earnhardt for the most wins in series history. But it was the first IROC win at Daytona for the 44-year-old driver who lives at nearby Spruce Creek Fly-In.

"Al Jr. was the best all-around guy I've seen to jump in an IROC car just cold turkey and go like crazy," Martin said. "And of course, everybody knows how tough Earnhardt was to beat. We had some great races, and some great battles. But I've got a bunch of kids out there now who are incredible race-car drivers. It was a pretty tall order today."

The IROC race features some of the best drivers from NASCAR, Indy Racing League and World of Outlaws. The race usually has ample slicing and dicing because the Pontiac Firebirds are identically prepared. That was the case again as there were six lead changes among four drivers.

Martin made the last pass for the lead on lap 32, using a bump draft from Lasoski to get by Kevin Harvick on the backstretch.

The 40-lap IROC race is serious business, but not the typical deals-go-out-the-window racing that's seen in most NASCAR events at Daytona. In fact, even though Lasoski was left high and dry by Busch, he seemed to understand the reason why.

Asked if he believed he could have gotten past Martin if Busch went high with him instead of going low, Lasoski said: "I think without a doubt. I had a really big run (on Martin). As soon as I saw (Busch) turn left I knew I was in trouble. But (Busch) had to take care of his (Winston Cup) teammate. But maybe one of these days when we're at Talladega you'll remember that, huh Kurt?"

Busch addressed the issue with a smile on his face.

"Lasoski and I were there duking it out," Busch said. "Maybe we should have helped one another to go by Mark Martin. But I have to talk to Mark and deal with him on a daily basis, so I was trying to get second away from Lasoski. Lasoski and I were catching Mark. He went high and I had to go low."

"Yeah you did," Lasoski agreed with both of them laughing.

Martin conceded in Victory Lane, just his second stock-car trip to Daytona's shrine, that he had a very good friend in Busch.

And for a rare time he also had a bit of good luck at Daytona, where things haven't gone as well as one might expect for a driver who has four times finished second in the Winston Cup points standings.

"This place has not always been overly kind to me," said Martin, whose average finish in 18 Daytona 500s is 21st and only previous stock-car win here came in the 1999 Budweiser Shootout. "This is a little bit of sunshine on our Speed Weeks. We're hoping things will go our way on Sunday as well."

The only disappointing thing for Martin was that his son, Matthew, wasn't there to see it. But with good reason.

"Matt wasn't here today; he's in school, unfortunately," Martin said. "But this is still nice to be able to celebrate a win with the people who are close to us here."

The IROC race will be televised by ESPN2 at 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

Martinís IROC Win May Be Last At Daytona
By D.C. Williams
News-Journal Correspondent
February 14, 2003

DAYTONA BEACH -- From the moment it started its first lap in 1974 the International Race of Champions has striven to showcase the best drivers in motorsports.

That year saw the legendary late Mark Donohue score victories in three of four races, capturing the first IROC crown.

Through the years, competing in the series were Formula One champions Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi; NASCAR champions Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough and Dale Earnhardt, United States open-wheel champions Al Unser and A.J. Foyt; sportscar greats Derek Bell, Bob Wollek and George Follmer. It even got a certain Silver Fox to make three full-series runs at the IROC title, one David Pearson -- the first two seasons in Porsches, no less.

On Friday, Mark Martin claimed a record-tying 11th IROC race victory -- now tied with Dale Earnhardt and Al Unser Jr. But Martin's win at Daytona International Speedway might be the last here in the IROC series.

At the end of this season, IROC's current title sponsor contract with True Value and its television pact with ESPN/ABC will end.

And, like IROC's present lack of a sponsoring automobile manufacturer, replacements are not immediately on the horizon.

"Not having those three connections actually provides us the opportunity to refresh the series for 2004," said George Signore, IROC's public relations director and brother of IROC president Jay Signore.

Signore believes that being free to simultaneously negotiate on all three fronts will actually result in a strengthening of IROC and that their down-the-road partner will benefit in being able to structure the series around them.

"From a marketing standpoint, IROC has a lot to offer with fans and TV cameras focusing on 12 cars carrying the same message rather than 43 cars each carrying a different message," Signore said.

Goodyear has made it clear it's not going to be leaving IROC.

"We've been with IROC since the beginning and we don't have any expectations of not being with them in the future," said Goodyear public relations manager Carole Schwartz.

Martin Claims IROC Round 1
fordracing.com
February 14, 2003

Daytona Beach, Fla. ó Mark Martin proved he was the best of the best, today, at Daytona International Speedway when he won a highly competitive Round 1 of the International Race of Champions.

The driver of a Ford Taurus in the NASCAR Winston Cup series drove one of the identically prepared Firebirds sporting green colors when he took the lead on Lap 32 thanks to some bump drafting from World of Outlaws driver Danny Lasoski. Martin in the No. 8 car then managed to hold off the rest of the field to claim his first IROC win at Daytona and his 11th career IROC win.

Martin is now tied for most IROC wins alongside the late Dale Earnhardt and Al Unser Jr. in the series 27th season.

"Al Jr. was the best all round guy to jump in a IROC car just cold turkey," Martin said. "Earnhardt, everybody knows how tough he was to beat. We had some great races and some great battles. But I've got a bunch of kids out there now that are incredible race car drivers.

"It was a pretty tall order today and I'm sure they're going to be gunning for me next time. It was a great race. This place hasn't been overly kind to me. This is a little bit of sunshine on our Speedweeks."

Rounding out the Top-5 was Martin's Roush Racing teammate Kurt Busch, Lasoski, Jimmie Johnson and another Roush teammate, Greg Biffle.

On the last lap coming out of Turn 4, Lasoski made a move on the high side of Martin, but Busch ducked low and stayed behind Martin to take runner-up honors.

"It's fitting he won the race today," Busch said. "He was the smartest guy out there."

One of the highlights of the race was an amazing save by Helio Castroneves coming through the tri-oval on Lap 14. The Indy Racing League driver drove through the grass and regained control of the car and returned to racing action.

"It was tremendous," Busch said of Castroneves recovery.

Winston Cup All That's Missing For Martin
By Mike Finney, Staff reporter
delawareonline.com : The News Journal : SPORTS
February 8, 2003

Mark Martin is a man who seems to have been beaten down far too long.

His wrinkled face looks as if it has been tormented from always being on the defensive. He often has doubted his own driving ability, openly wondering if he is good enough to ever win another race in NASCAR's Winston Cup Series.

Yet, just when Martin is counted out, he rises again, just to see racing's fickle fates keep him just short of a Winston Cup championship.

Martin is preparing to resume the chase Feb. 16, when the season opens with the Daytona 500.

Martin finished second in the points standings to Tony Stewart last season, the fourth time Martin has been runner-up. Just 38 more points and Martin would have been last year's champion.

Then there are the four other times Martin finished third in the standings. Always close, but never the champion.

"I would hate to think that my career would be a failure if I never won a championship," Martin said. "I don't think there is any jeopardy of my career being a failure. I am very proud of what I've been able to accomplish."

What he has accomplished is 33 Winston Cup wins and 200 top-five finishes in 530 career starts.

This year, the 44-year-old Martin returns for a 15th season with car owner Jack Roush. And he likes what he sees.

"I feel good about where I'm at right now and the people that are surrounding me, but that still doesn't mean we're going to have as good a year as we had last year," Martin said. "It just means that things are better.

"We'll have to see what the competition does, but I feel like we can step it up from last year. I hope we can."

Martin did not start last season with that kind of optimism. He headed to Daytona with a new crew chief in Ben Leslie, who had only 1 1/2 seasons of Winston Cup experience. Jimmy Fennig, Martin's crew chief for five seasons, went to work for teammate Kurt Busch.

Martin was coming off a 12th-place finish in the points standings in 2001, his lowest finish since he was 15th in 1988. The future looked like the steps of an escalator going down.

But the switch paid off, as Martin was consistent all season and won the Coca-Cola 600.

"The reasons we made the swap was to put experience with inexperience," Martin said. "There are some real big pluses to inexperience. They're not all negative.

"Inexperience is a good thing. It's open-mindedness. It's enthusiasm. Not knowing you can't do it sometimes makes a big difference."

Martin put together 22 top-10 finishes, seven more than the previous year. His 12 top-five finishes were nine more than he posted in 2001.

In fact, while trying to catch Stewart, Martin closed the season with three straight top-five finishes.

Jeff Burton, another Martin teammate, noted his consistency but said the team needed to work on its speed to remain a title contender.

"You're going to have to have speed and you're going to have to have consistency," Burton said. "Mark put himself in the position to win the championship based on consistency. If you looked at Mark compared to how fast Kurt [Busch] went or how fast Matt [Kenseth] went, their team wasn't as fast. I think they're going to have to go faster to win a championship."

Martin expects to go faster.

"I'm a lot more at peace with my team and what we are doing right now than a year ago," Martin said. "A year ago, I had absolutely no notes of any setups that worked anywhere for the first time in my career, so I might as well have been a rookie.

"This year, we have notes from ... two-thirds that work real well and just a few race tracks that we have to start over again."

Martin knows all about starting over again, trying to reach the top of the mountain. Maybe this is his year.

Martin Set For Another Title Chase
By David Coffin Pitstop
Monterey County Herald
February 7, 2003

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - NASCAR star Mark Martin wins and loses with class.

And, at age 44, he is still one of the most talented guys on the Winston Cup circuit.

Despite his considerable credentials, the Roush Racing veteran has never been able to grasp that elusive Cup title.

Last season, Martin came about as close as you can to the championship without winning it before Tony Stewart finally prevailed by a slim 38 points.

Saturday, Martin begins another quest for the title he would so much love to have when the Winston Cup field begins the season with the Budweiser Shootout, followed by Pole Day Sunday as the qualifying process begins for the Daytona 500 to be run on the Super Speedway March 16.

But, just how much gas has Martin got left in his tank, particularly in light of the formidable challenge he faces from all the young guns on the circuit.

At last month's UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Martin appeared optimistic and as enthusiastic as ever.

He pointed out that the team struggled to put things together in the early going last year, then charged hard toward the title as the season progressed. Now that the goundwork has been laid, Martin said he could see no reason why they can't contend from the start in 2003.

I've made no bones about the fact I am a Jeff Gordon fan. He's a native Northern Californian (though he's lived in Indiana most of his racing career). He's got unquestioned talent and is as charismatic as they come. And, he's a Chevy man.

But, Gordon has won four Winston Cup titles in his 10 years on the circuit. Only "The King," Richard Petty, and "The Intimidator," the late Dale Earnhardt, have earned more championships, with seven each.

So, I'll overlook the fact he drives a Ford -- for Pete's sake -- and root for Martin this season as I did the second half of 2002. If anyone ever deserved a Winston Cup championship, Martin does.

NEW EXPERIENCES

Kurt Busch, one of those young guns on the Winston Cup tour and Martin's teammate at Roush, logged four victories last season and won three of the final five races of the season. No question he can drive a race car.

Wednesday at Spring Training for the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, Busch got a totally new experience. He spent the better part of an hour in a Champ Car on Sebring International Raceway's

1.669-mile road course layout.

The opportunity was arranged with the blessings of Busch's employer for the talented young stock-car driver to pilot the Gigante Team Rahal Lola -- in a seat normally occupied by Champ Car star Michel Jourdain Jr.

"From the humble background I've come from, this was an experience of a lifetime," Busch said, after turning several laps in the 112 mile per hour range.

He learned quickly, only stalling the car once while attempting to leave the pits in his first time in the seat of a Champ Car. Several of the rookies in the Champ Car World Series endured multiple stalls in their first test sessions.

On his first lap, Busch spun the car and on his final lap, as he began to get a handle on things, he spun again. In between, he was quicker almost every lap, finally dropping below 55 seconds and averaging about 112 miles per hour around the circuit

"I didn't quite trust the downforce," he said. "These things have about 4,000 pounds of downforce while a Cup car only has about 1,500 pounds. Overall, the braking in this thing was like nothing else I'll probably ever drive."

Busch will be back inside the friendly confines of his Roush Racing Ford beginning this weekend for Daytona 500 qualifying and for NASCAR's season-opener the next weekend.

Meanwhile, he relished the new experience he had during a brief break from his Winston Cup duties.

"Being out in the open air (Champ Car's open cockpit) is a different way of life," he quipped.

ONE FAST ROOKIE

Meanwhile, on the final day of Spring Training, Champ Car rookie Sebastian Bourdais of France set the fastest lap of the three-day test on his final run, turning a 50.584-second lap, or 118.781 miles per hour.

His Newman/Haas Racing teammate, Bruno Junqueira, was second quick at 50.804 (118.266), followed by Jourdain at 50.841 (118.180) and Oriol Servia at 50.940 (117.951).

The Champ Car World Series begins its season March 21-23 at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla.

Martin's Career "Not In A Crisis"
By Neal Sims, News Staff Writer
al.com - Sports
February 6, 2003

CHARLOTTE - Mark Martin cringed at the question, just as he has dozens of times when surrounded by notepads and microphones, then replied once again to this repeated inquiry about being racing's recurrent runner-up.

"I have to consistently explain why my career is not in a crisis," Martin said. "My glass is very full. There probably is room in it for a couple of things that aren't in there yet, but it's very full."

What's missing, of course, is a Winston Cup championship. Last season, for the fourth time in his career, Martin was second best. Four other years, he has placed third.

"I would hate to think that my career would be a failure if I never won a championship," Martin said. "I don't think there is any jeopardy of my career being a failure. I am very proud of what I've been able to accomplish."

The record backs up the 44-year-old driver's claim. Martin has 33 victories and 200 finishes in the top five in more than 500 Winston Cup starts. He embarks on his 20th season and what may be his last best chance to snare that championship.

Martin heads to the season-opening Daytona 500 with all the benefits of the overwhelming presence of Roush Racing. The operation adds a fifth Winston Cup team for 2003, moving last year's Busch champion Greg Biffle into the lineup with Martin, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch.

Roush drivers won 10 races last season, including four of the final five. Three of them ranked in the top 10 of the standings with Martin second, Busch third and Kenseth eighth. Kenseth had a series-leading five victories. Busch won four times, including three of those final five.

Owner Jack Roush said, "If I had to look and say, `Which guys are going to reign supreme this year?' it's awful hard for me not to pick Kurt. It's awful hard for me not to pick Matt. It's awful hard for me not to pick Mark, and it's awful hard for me not to pick Jeff. I look at them, and I can say any one and it's not wrong."

Martin led the standings with eight races to go last year. He closed out the season with finishes of second, fourth and fourth but still fell 38 points short of champion Tony Stewart. The day before the final race, Martin's appeal of a 25-point NASCAR penalty for using an unapproved part was denied.

The tale was just another of the oh-so-close runs Martin has made at a championship. He led Dale Earnhardt with only two races left in 1990, but early in the season, Martin had been docked 46 points for a rules violation. Earnhardt won the title by 26. In 1998, Martin won seven races and finished second in six others, a championship performance in almost any other year. Jeff Gordon won 13 and the title. The year before, Martin led the standings with 10 races to go but came in third, 29 points back of Gordon in the closest three-way finish in Winston Cup history.

Still, Martin never expected such a standout performance in 2002, his first season with new crew chief Ben Leslie and a revamped No. 6 team. "A lot of things about our deal look a whole lot better than a year ago," Martin said. "Last year at this time, we didn't have a pit crew in shape yet. We didn't have any cars together except the speedway car. All those pieces are in place now.

"We have a lot of things going for us, but that doesn't always carry over to performance on the race track. What we do should be better than what we did in 2002, but I can't tell you what everybody else is going to do. You're going to measure our success by everybody else's."

Much of the competition will come from other Roush regulars. Kenseth and Busch carry the momentum from all their victories. Burton is hoping to rebound from his first winless season in six years.

"We tried and tried to get to where we needed to be and we just couldn't get there, so something had to change," said Burton, who switched crew chiefs late last season, replacing Frank Stoddard with Paul Andrews.

"You never want to be the worst-performing team in a multi-car team," Burton added. "It is not a position that I enjoyed being in."

Mark Martin: Older And Wiser, But Fire Still Burns Strong
By Bruce Martin
SportsTicker Contributing Editor

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) - The years of NASCAR Winston Cup racing have worn away on Mark Martin's face.

From a youngster from Arkansas, to a teenager in the American Speed Association (ASA) to the determined driver that entered Winston Cup for the first time in 1981, Martin's face was a combination of determination and wonderment.

Martin first came to stock car racing's top series as an owner and driver. He failed in his first attempt, and after an ill-fated experience with team owner J.D. Stacey in 1983, Martin returned to ASA to rebuild his racing career.

"I wasn't very bright either," Martin said of his first foray into NASCAR. "I was only a team owner for one year, and then I was bankrupt. I was pretty dumb. I haven't really demonstrated that I was much brighter on occasion since then. I don't know why that was such a big surprise."

Martin returned to Winston Cup in 1987 with team owner Jack Roush. Now he is 44 and entering the final phase of his racing career.

He once was one of the new kids in the garage, when the likes of Bobby Allison, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Benny Parsons and Buddy Baker were the same age Martin is today.

Now, Martin is seeing talented newcomers such as 24-year-old Ryan Newman and 27-year-old Jimmie Johnson playing his former role.

"There are a lot of good times and a lot of good people," Martin said. "I had some good relationships with Darrell Waltrip and Allison. It's changed a lot since then, and when I first came to NASCAR there were some old-timers there that I didn't much want to hear about how it used to be and I didn't much want to hear about that.

"And I try not to bore everyone. I try not to do that and be one of those old-timers talking how it didn't used to be like this."

The passage of time can be read on Martin's face. The stress, the strain, the traveling and the pressure have turned Martin's once youthful face into a wizened one, similar to Prune Face in the comic strip "Dick Tracy."

Martin remains a rock-solid figure in the sport and his determination is as strong as ever as he begins the 2003 Winston Cup season with Roush Racing.

After disappointing seasons in 2000 and 2001, Martin showed he was still a winner in 2002. He returned to victory lane after a 73-race drought when he won the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day Weekend.

It was his 33rd career win, and he used it as a springboard to a championship chase that fell just 38 points short of Tony Stewart at the end of the year.

Martin remains one of the best drivers in the sport. You can read it in the lines in his face.

"I have been racing a long time," he said. "It was just another example of what I have been through a number of times in my career. If my car is not fast, I can't win with it.

"We had a spell there when we weren't very fast and thanks to the team and (crew chief) Ben Leslie, they acknowledged to change all of that."

Despite finishing second in the standings for the fourth time in his career, it was a season to remember for Martin.

"For me, in probably every way, 2002 was the best year of my life, the best year in my career for a number of reasons," he said. "I'm just very grateful and thankful to the people that have supported me.

"Although I'm not an eternal optimist, I do feel that I have an awful lot to be thankful for."

Martin often has said if he never wins a Winston Cup championship, he still has enjoyed a better career "than any skinny kid from Arkansas could have ever dreamed of."

He is one of the most respected drivers in the sport. He is perhaps the cleanest driver on the track - something his competitors have come to admire.

Martin also is quick to give advice to newcomers in the sport, hoping to make big-time auto racing even more professional.

"Mark Martin was the one guy that I went to as a rookie Busch driver for advice, and he always took time for me," defending Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart said. "Here was this big Winston Cup driver ... and I was a nobody in a part-time Busch schedule. He gave me plenty of good tips and answered questions that I had, and I had a lot of them.

"When I had my battle for the IRL championship in 1997, it was with a buddy of mine, Davey Hamilton. Knowing that I was racing him for it, knowing that one of the two of us was going to get it was a good feeling. It was somebody that I was friends with. And I felt that way about Mark."

Stewart admits to being a Martin fan, hoping that if he can't win the championship, Martin does some day.

"Some guys go their whole career and don't ever win a championship," Stewart said. "I hope that doesn't happen to Mark. He is very deserving to win the championship, and I think before it's all said and done, he'll get his. They'll get him a championship."

Martin's championship chase in 2003 begins with the Daytona 500 on February 16. It's a race Martin never has won, but with so much emphasis placed on aerodynamics and drafting on the high banks of Daytona, the best driver often doesn't win NASCAR's biggest race.

"Historically speaking, Dale Jarrett has been in a lot better shape than I have been at Daytona, so to hear him frustrated can just give you an idea of how I feel," Martin said. "We can definitely go to Daytona and win the 500, but it will probably be a little bit more difficult for my car than Dale Jarrett's car and he sounds like he's pulling his hair out.

"We have a lot of work to do."

Martin knows it can be done. He has come close to winning at Daytona before but always has seen another driver celebrate in victory lane.

"We were in contention to win the Daytona 500 in 2000," Martin said. "We were also in contention to win it in 1997. I think we led the most laps that day both those years, and those were the two years that I had cars that were really contenders to win. You don't have to have a car fast enough to win every time. So we'll go down and we're going to try to pull one out. We're going to try to figure out a way.

"That's what we do ever Sunday, and we have won a few races in my career when we didn't have the favorite from a speed standpoint, so we'll go down there and do the best we can."

Time may see Martin win the Daytona 500 and ultimately a Winston Cup championship before his face turns to his young son Matt's promising racing career.

The lines and wrinkles on Martin's face offer a revealing look at NASCAR's past and present. But he also sees even bigger things for the sport in the future.

"I can't imagine what this thing is going to be like 20 years from now," Martin said. "It's scary. I will tell you in 10 years, this sport is getting ready to change again just as much as it has in the past 10 and in the next 10.

"If you look at this series and any other kind of racing and any other kind of sport where NASCAR's continued to grow and most of the other sports have continued to decline, it's incredible. I have a lot of respect for NASCAR."

And those in NASCAR who have come to know Martin have a lot of respect for the driver whose face has experienced so much of the sport's rapid rise in such a short period of time.

2003 Mark Martin Articles - January

2003 Mark Martin Articles - March

2003 Mark Martin Articles - April

2003 Mark Martin Articles - May

2003 Mark Martin Articles - June & July

2003 Mark Martin Articles - August

2003 Mark Martin Articles - September

2003 Mark Martin Articles - October

2003 Mark Martin Articles - November

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